Moving in together means finding out who you really are

emergencyI recently moved in with my fiancée, Jen. It rained the day I moved all of my things into her Los Angeles apartment. At one point, a large tree branch fell in front of my car and crashed into the side of the road. My car barely escaped harm. Another man might have taken it as an omen, as nature’s way of saying, “Are you sure you never want to play Madden in your underwear all day ever again?” I was undeterred. I wanted this. I was ready.

As I moved all of my food into my new home, the first unintended consequence of our decision to move in together revealed itself. I moved in box after box of water, canned goods and dried food. It was all earthquake food and way more than three days’ worth. Jen marveled at the volume. “Baby,” she said, “how many cans of beans do we need?”

Every can of beans, I told her, is one more meal we won’t have to eat the dog.

I stand by that.

I filled up one-third of all of our kitchen cabinet space with what we now call “the emergency beans.” My bathroom overflows with emergency toothpaste and emergency Alka-Seltzer. Jen knew I liked to be prepared, but she was not aware of how fanatical I was about preparation.

The thing is, neither was I.

It took the look on Jen’s face as I moved my emergency olive oil into the kitchen to tell me that I take disaster preparation more seriously than your average FEMA director. That’s when I learned my first lesson about cohabitation.

Living with someone you love fully exposes you as the total freak you are.

We are all freaks. We all do crazy, strange things. We usually have the good sense to do those things out of sight or mind of others.

For instance, I didn’t know I had odd breakfast habits. But I do. I totally admit that I do. I had never stopped to think about it because it was routine.

I like to eat Wheaties with a sliced banana, hold the milk and substitute Tropicana 50 orange juice in the cereal. In my brain, this makes total sense. The orange juice makes the bland Wheaties taste fruity. I don’t ingest the unnecessary milk calories and instead of drinking my Vitamin C, I eat it.

Now when Jen is asked by her friends “What’s it like living with Joe?” the first words out of her mouth are “It’s great,” before quickly adding, “but he puts orange juice on his cereal.” Then everyone looks at each other like, “I give it six months.”

Here’s another thing I did not know about myself until I baffled Jen with my actions – I have a very libertine attitude about Playboy in the bathroom. Maybe it’s because I have been a bachelor for so long, but I see nothing wrong with leaving a celebrated magazine – one that has published the likes of Hunter S. Thompson, Kurt Vonnegut and John Updike – in the wicker basket across from my commode. My beloved fiancee, ironically, only sees the breasts. I considered encouraging her to take on an enlightened attitude, but thought better of it and stuck my Playboys in a bathroom drawer.

Now, before you go getting a negative opinion of Jen, as someone who is critical or trying to change me, stop. She does not. She likes and encourages my weirdness. She has not made me get rid of any of my beans or asked me to start buying milk. She told me, right after I moved in, “I love the things that make you you.”

I love those things about her, too, none of which I will list right here, because I might buy a lot of beans and I might put orange juice on my Wheaties and I might leave magazines filled with photographs of naked women all over the bathroom, but I’m not stupid.

Joe Donatelli
Joe Donatelli is a writer in Los Angeles
  • A Fan

    This is great! This guy needs to occupy the last page in TIME magazine. Joel Stein can take a hike!

  • Joe Donatelli

    I love you, A Fan. Whoever you are.

  • Jen

    Joe definitely puts the “J” in OJ, and I think it is cute. I’ve never seen someone pour juice on their cereal, and I crack up every time he does it. And for the record, I enjoy reading Playboy, breasts and all—I just don’t know that they need to be on display for everyone who visits our home :-)

  • Joe Donatelli

    @Jen The Playboy one I get. But juice on cereal — come on! Totally makes sense. Everyone will be doing it in five years!

  • Jamie (Degnovivo) Failor

    And I thought the guy in my office who puts water on cereal was weird….

  • Eve

    Fantastic read. Very very funny.

  • Joe, if you lived with me, I would make you eat your disgusting breakfast outside or in the garage, and I would throw away your Playboys. I mean Playboy? What is this? 1987? Geeeeez. Jen is, obviously, a keeper. Glad you put a ring on it.

  • Joe Donatelli

    @Brian — ha ha. I like to think sending someone to the garage is your solution to everything. I, too, am glad I put a ring on it.

  • Danielle

    It’s funny that we were roommates for so many years and I have zero recollection of you putting OJ on your cereal. Though I did enjoy the times you walked into the living room while I was watching “Sex and the City” and insisted on watching 99% of it standing behind your recliner, as if to suggest that since you were standing up you weren’t fully committed to watching it….

  • Good article. And I agree, moving in together is definitely an eye opener. I discovered that my husband was not only a huge Muppets aficionado, but also likes to keep piles of empty plastic bottles beside the bed. I still don’t know the reason why, but I put up with it out of love. That’s the key to live-in relationships. Acceptance.

  • Danielle, I am cracking up. I work with Joe and a couple weeks ago he was telling us how he used to watch Sex and the City from the hallway! Hahahaha.

  • Joe Donatelli

    It’s true.

    *hangs head

    It’s true.

  • Jen

    His new move is to pretend not to watch my wedding shows and terrible E! reality shows while “reading” the Wall Street Journal.

  • Joe Donatelli

    @Jen It’s impossible to ignore a train wreck when it’s 8 feet away from your face. Thank God I have the calming shores of Dan Neil’s automotive reviews to soothe my jangled nerves.

  • Mom

    Funny article Joe. OJ on the cerial is slightly strange. What is REALLY strange is that you do not eat Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches. As a Mom, I could never get over that. You made Fridays in Lent so difficult for lunch.

  • Paxton

    Hahaha! You’re a funny dude. Sara thinks it’s weird that I don’t like to drink alcohol with dinner. Just water. And I think it’s weird she doesn’t like to eat dead animals so it all works out.

    I’d like to read the 6 month version of this story. Not that it’ll be bad, but that it just may uncover some other “weirdness”.

  • Joe Donatelli

    @Paxton — me, too. Almost never drink with dinner. And yeah, I believe animals were put on earth to fill my belly.

    There will be a 6-month, 6-year and 16-year version of this story. I’ll keep everyone updated. And when I have the courage, I’ll tell you all of the weird things that Jen does. (No, I won’t.)


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